News Worth Noting: ACWA Releases Recommendations for Improving Water Transfers; Recycled Water to Provide a Boost for San Joaquin Valley Waterbirds; Reclamation Increases the Friant Division Water Supply Allocation to 65%; Snowpack melting at record speed

ACWA Releases Recommendations for Improving Water Transfers and Access to Water Markets in California

Actions Address Continuing Drought and Long-Term Water Management Needs

From the Association of California Water Agencies:

acwa_logo.gifCalling voluntary water transfers a vital management tool that will be increasingly valuable in the future, the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) today officially released a suite of recommendations for improving the transfer process and access to the voluntary water market, especially for smaller agencies.

The recommendations, titled “Recommendations for Improving Water Transfers and Access to Water Markets in California,” come as ACWA and other organizations are discussing market-oriented solutions as part of a comprehensive water management strategy for California. Developed by a statewide advisory committee with expertise in transfers, the recommendations are guiding ACWA’s advocacy efforts on transfer legislation this year.

ACWA released the recommendations in conjunction with a town hall session on water markets during the association’s 2016 Spring Conference & Exhibition in Monterey.

ACWA Executive Director Timothy Quinn noted that water transfers played an important role in past droughts. He said that while California has a water market that functions relatively well for some agencies, streamlining the transfer process and making water markets more accessible would yield a number of benefits for agencies across the state.

“These recommendations not only address water needs during a multi-year drought, they create the foundation for more effective water management in the future,” Quinn said. “Legislation in the early 1990s helped improve the water transfer process, but more can and should be done, especially as the state looks to implement a comprehensive water management policy.”

Enhancing the voluntary water market is a key priority for ACWA and other organizations this year. ACWA is actively engaged in discussions with stakeholders, the Brown Administration, the California Legislature and the appropriate state and federal agencies, including the California Department of Water Resources.

DWR Director Mark Cowin said ACWA’s recommendations will help advance the conversation this year.

“Moving water from willing sellers to willing buyers can help stretch supplies and minimize water shortages, but it’s got to be done in a way that protects other water users, local communities, and fish and wildlife,” Cowin said. “ACWA’s recommendations were generated by a broad panel that includes people with first-hand water transfer experience. We take these recommendations seriously and welcome the input as we work toward a more accessible, transparent, streamlined water market.”

ACWA’s recommendations were developed by a Water Market Technical Advisory Committee that included ACWA member agency representatives with special expertise in water transfers and representatives from the Public Policy Institute of California and the Environmental Defense Fund.

David Festa, senior vice president of ecosystems for the Environmental Defense Fund, said improvements to the voluntary water market are highly desirable and could benefit the environment by enhancing overall water supplies, particularly during drought.

“California’s water market has a key role to play in helping the economy, the environment and disadvantaged communities become more resilient in the face of climate change,” said Festa, who participated in the town hall at the ACWA conference. “We welcome ACWA’s recommendations and encourage various stakeholders to work together to build consensus on policy actions this year.”

The recommendations note that improving the transfer process and enhancing access to the market would have several benefits, including:

  • Helping to protect existing local and regional investments in drought-resilient strategies;
  • Improving coordination among water agencies;
    Incentivizing significant investments in water use efficiency projects and programs;
  • Increasing water supply reliability for urban and agricultural water users;
  • Increasing the quantity or improving the timing of water available for transfers by providing information to buyers and sellers who might not otherwise have sufficient information to participate in water markets; and
  • Enhancing the state’s water supplies and potentially increasing the amount or improving the timing of water available for environmental uses.
Click here to read the report, “Recommendations for Improving Water Transfers and Access to Water Markets in California.”

ACWA is a statewide association of public agencies whose more than 430 members are responsible for about 90% of the water delivered in California. For more information, visit www.acwa.com.

Recycled Water to Provide a Boost for San Joaquin Valley Waterbirds

New Water Recycling Project to Supply Water to South of Delta Wildlife Areas

From Audubon, Defenders of Wildlife, and California Waterfowl:

In a move that will provide a boost to depleted bird habitat areas in the driest part of the Central Valley, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) today announced a landmark agreement with the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program. The water recycling project will supply 6,000 acre-feet of water per year to habitat in San Joaquin Valley refuges and wildlife areas.

When completed, as early as 2018, the project will provide 6,000 acre-feet of highly treated water annually for south of Delta wetland habitat at places including the Grasslands Wildlife Area, the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, the Los Banos Wildlife Area, and other important wildlife habitat. The “new” water will benefit a wide variety of ducks, geese, shorebirds and songbirds.

“This is the largest new block of water developed for San Joaquin Valley wetlands in a quarter century,” said Audubon California Working Lands Director Meghan Hertel. “The drought has shown how vulnerable these wetlands are, as well as the wildlife that depends on them. This project shows how cooperation can provide effective solutions.”

The project will move highly treated water from Modesto and Turlock through a new pipeline to the Delta Mendota Canal. The canal will then be used to distribute water to wetlands. San Joaquin Valley farms will also receive 24,000 acre-feet of the recycled water.

“This project is the right response to California’s drought, benefitting both the environment and farms,” said Kim Delfino, California program director for Defenders of Wildlife. “Recycled water is one of our best sources of new water.”

”Wetlands in California have a low priority for water supply in times of shortage,” said Jeffrey Volberg, Director of Water Law & Policy for California Waterfowl Association. “This new supply of water will provide a secure water supply that will provide nutrition and habitat for migratory waterfowl, as well as breeding habitat for resident birds, such as mallards. This recycling project uses water efficiently in a way that benefits the public and wildlife alike.”

Background:  Central Valley wetlands experience drought conditions in all but the wettest of years.  Without water deliveries, these wetlands aren’t wet, and wildlife suffers. In the last two drought years, California’s breeding mallard population has fallen 42 percent.

Central Valley wetlands are of hemispheric importance, providing the most important stopping point on the Pacific Flyway for five million migratory waterfowl, which makes up 60 percent of the Pacific Flyway waterfowl population and 20 percent of the continental population.  These wetlands also provide essential habitat for hundreds of other species, including resident waterfowl, such as mallards, other waterbirds, such as tricolored blackbirds, glossy ibis and Sandhill cranes, as well as other wildlife.

Before statehood in 1850, Central Valley wetlands were flooded naturally by winter rains and spring snowmelt. Today, 95 percent of those wetlands have been destroyed or modified.  Remaining wetlands rely on water deliveries, particularly from the federal Central Valley Project.

In 1992, in recognition of the biological importance of wetlands and their dependence on water deliveries to maintain healthy ecosystems, Congress passed a legislative mandate that the BOR must provide adequate water supplies for critical wetlands. Congress also required the BOR to purchase or develop additional water to meet the full annual management needs of Central Valley wetlands. That congressional mandate included a base level of supply for public and private wetland refuge land, known as “level 2” supplies.  Congress also required the BOR to purchase or develop additional “level 4” water supplies to meet the full annual management needs of Central Valley wetlands. BOR’s new recycled water project represents the first significant water development project to meet that 24 year-old “level 4” requirement.

The state’s drought has shown that wetlands, particularly in the San Joaquin Valley, are highly vulnerable.  Without adequate water supplies, wetland managers have been unable to provide habitat for year-round resident waterfowl and for other wildlife, including the threatened giant garter snake. Reduced wetland water supplies also increases the risk of large-scale outbreaks of avian diseases, as have been seen in the Klamath Lake area. Finally, wintering waterfowl depend on food grown during the summer. Summer irrigation increases invertebrate numbers, as well as seeds on wetland plants, which are needed to sustain waterbirds during the winter.  Years of analysis have shown that south of Delta waterfowl are particularly vulnerable to running out of food before the end of the migratory season.

Reclamation Increases the Friant Division 2016 Class 1 Water Supply Allocation to 65 Percent

From the Bureau of Reclamation:

ReclamationThe Bureau of Reclamation announces an additional increase in the water supply allocation to the Friant Division contractors of their Class 1 water from 50 to 65 percent. The initial Friant Division water supply allocation announced on April 1, 2016, was 30 percent Class 1water supply; an additional 100,000 acre-feet of Uncontrolled Season supply was made available to avert flood control concerns and needed to be delivered by the end of April. The Class 1 water supply allocation was subsequently increased from 30 to 40 percent on April 11, 2016, and from 40 to 50 percent on April 21, 2016, pursuant to prior notifications to Friant Division contractors.

Class 1 is generally considered the supply which can be dependably managed through storage regulation over the season and delivered at the contractor’s convenience. The Class 1 supply will continue to be reassessed at weekly intervals until further notice.
Reclamation is able to make this announcement and notify Friant Division Class 1 contractors of their increase in water supply based upon improved forecasted hydrologic conditions, commercial power operations in the Upper San Joaquin River Basin, current storage in Millerton Lake, and continued cooler weather demand patterns.

Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States, with operations and facilities in the 17 western states. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at http://www.usbr.gov.

Snowpack melting at record speed

From the USDA:

usda logoDuring April, Western snowpack dropped at record speed, according to data from the fifth and final 2016 forecast by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“In the Pacific Northwest, low precipitation and high temperatures led to a dramatic reduction in snowpack,” said NRCS Hydrologist Cara McCarthy. “In this area, peak streamflow is arriving weeks earlier than normal this year.”

Not all areas have low snowpack. “Parts of Wyoming and Colorado have seen much above-average precipitation in recent weeks, causing concerns about potential flooding in the North Platte,” said McCarthy.

May is the last West-wide forecast of the season, but NRCS will continue monitoring conditions throughout the year. Read the full West-wide forecast or view information by state.

In Western states where snowmelt accounts for the majority of seasonal water supply, information about snowpack serves as an indicator of future water availability. The wildland fire community closely watches snowpack and water supply availability predictions as limited snowpack and the rate of snowmelt are two of the many factors that affect the potential severity of the wildland fire season in the West.

Streamflow in the West consists largely of accumulated mountain snowmelt that flows into streams as temperatures warm in spring and summer. NRCS scientists analyze the snowpack, precipitation, air temperature and other measurements taken from remote sites to develop the water supply forecasts.

NRCS has installed and maintains more than 800 high-elevation weather stations, known as SNOTEL sites. These remote, automated sites transmit hourly updates on snowpack conditions, greatly enhancing data collection and forecast accuracy. All of the data are free and available online.

The water supply forecast, typically issued monthly from January to May, is one of several ways USDA works to improve public awareness and manage the impacts of climate change, including drought and other extreme weather events. Through the National Drought Resilience Partnership offsite link image    , federal agencies are working closely with states, tribes and local governments to develop a coordinated response to drought.

Click here to read the Western Snowpack and Water Conditions report.

NRCS provides science-based conservation solutions to farmers and ranchers that help mitigate the effects of drought and prepare against future weather events. These practices enable farmers and ranchers to use water more efficiently as well as boost the health of soil, which is better able to store water for when it is needed most. For information on assistance, visit Getting Started with NRCS.

For information on USDA’s drought mitigation efforts, visit USDA Drought Programs and Assistance. To learn more about how NRCS is helping private landowners adapt to changing climate conditions including drought, visit the NRCS’ drought resources. 

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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